This Year of Our Lord 2021 was my first year of teaching Latin online. (And wow–somehow I got the world’s best students!) So I’ve taught some this year–and I have learned a lot this year. “The teacher learns more than the student”, is certainly true! I’ve learned from my students two things that make Latin study tough, which I would like to share with all of you:
- Time Committment: First of all, I have learned that for busy professionals and clergy, regular, concentrated Latin study is difficult–to impossible–to fit in.
Anyone who wants to study Latin needs to know right away: learning Latin is different, TOTALLY DIFFERENT than learning the modern languages you’ve probably tried. Yes, you will have new words to learn here, but with Latin you also have to learn to think differently. Very differently–because Latin is an inflected language, and English is not.
Of course, getting linguitically reoriented and learning to think differently in another language takes a lot of time. You drill, read, practice, and digest–over and over and over. It took you more than three years of 24/7-exposure to your native language to get good at it, so you should expect Latin to take a lot of time and consistent effort, too.
Would you learn Latin, you must bathe in Latin.Junior Latin: Book One by John Forsythe and Richard Gummere, 1917
Anyone contemplating beginning studying Latin should be sure he has a free enough schedule that he can spend at least a half hour every day on it. And to expect that it will be a couple of years of study before he is really good at Latin.
This is the reason Latin was taught to the young in all the schools back in the day–students have the time and structure in their lives to pursue guided Latin study, and adults almost always do not. Don’t start Latin until you are sure you have the space in your schedule!
- Understanding Grammar: Students who feel like their understanding of English grammar is rusty should spend some time reviewing how their own language works before beginning Latin.
But…didn’t I just say that Latin works completely differently than English? So why isn’t studying English grammar a waste of time preparing for Latin?
Well, grammar as we know it was basically invented by the ancient Greeks and Romans, long before English was invented, so it is very relevant to study with our own language the categorizations of what language does formulated by those who used the very language we are trying to learn. But more importantly, every Latin textbook will be explaining Latin to you in grammar terms. Forewarned is forearmed! Review or brush up English grammar for a bit before you tackle Latin.
All this said, with a good program and concentrated committment, learning Church Latin is doable and certainly rewarding and worthwhile! I hope you will give Latin a try! Here at the site I am happy to answer questions and provide pointers if you get stuck. Bonam fortunam!